Drawing closer to the end of the year has me thinking about beginnings—more specifically, first times. I remember the last time I had multiple firsts in the same day (cue the ‘flashback’ special effect) …
The First First:
Today was my first day as a substitute teacher in a local public school. I repeat, this was not a test. This was the real deal. I took a half-day assignment at an elementary school. Listen… LISTEN. When I say those kids wore me out? When I say that my voice box was waning by 1pm in the afternoon? Nobody was flat-out bad, but it’s grade school and I’m a substitute and that’s just the way it goes.
As I left, I couldn’t help thinking how different my day would have been if I was with those students every day, if I wasn’t just a visitor. They would know my expectations, and I would know how far I could push them. On the one hand, my first day is out of the way, which I’m thankful for. On the other hand, each sub assignment can vary so much that every day could feel like a first day. I’d like to think that I will always remember my first class, but in the meantime, I’m seeking out junior high and up!
The Second First:
When I came home, I stayed on vocal rest for the remainder of the afternoon because I had a staged reading in the evening. I’ve been involved in theater, and I’ve been part of staged readings before. So, what made this night different from all other nights? Well, tonight, I was on said stage as a reader—a player, if you will. I was the one taking direction, reacting to other performers, endeavoring to convey a character with some dimension to an audience.
It was a very low-stress situation. The play is still in development; the playwright asked me to do it, so there was no audition; the other—way more experienced—actors were very nice; there was wine. On the spectrum of ‘deals,’ I suppose this wasn’t a very big one. But it felt significant to me, and I’m happy to have the chance to experience theater from yet another perspective.
The Third First:
After the teaching and before the acting was my third first of the day: I met with a therapist. I’ve thought about it off and on for years. I am well versed in the rhetoric of self-care. I know how to spout, “Down with cultural norms! Death to the myth of the Strong Black Woman!” But it still took me so long to meet with someone because I hold myself to a higher standard. (Stop me if you’ve heard this one.) Because I should be able to get it together. Because I’d have a few good days, and that would dupe me into thinking I had things under control. So, I would give up my search. Then, by the time the bottom dropped out AGAIN (because it always does, eventually), I would be stuck: in need of someone, without said someone, and too tired or uncertain or ashamed to reach out for someone.
But not this time. I did the research. I made the appointment. I didn’t back out. There was paperwork, introductions. She asked questions. I tried to give honest answers. (I mean, what am I going to be shy about now? I’m sitting on her couch, so the jig is up.) She took a lot of notes.
When we think of firsts—at least when I do—they tend to skew younger: first steps and first words, first day of school, first kiss, first date. Often the firsts are great, but sometimes they can hurt, like the first failing grade, first fight, first heartbreak, first job loss… If we keep living, God willing, we will continue to have firsts. It means we’re still growing and learning. All these new roads, some may be short, fun detours; others I may be walking the rest of my life. Either way, I’m glad those first steps are behind me.
Have you had any ‘firsts’ recently—how are you still learning and growing?